New Civilization News: Raven Road    
 Raven Road13 comments
picture15 Dec 2008 @ 03:42, by John Ashbaugh

Raven Road on a late Sunday overcast afternoon. Sunlight diffuses through thin bands of hazy clouds, playing peek-a-boo through the descending Strata.

. I’m walking a path wide enough and suitable for a four-wheel drive with heavy duty suspension: boulders and ruts and dips and curves. Fir trees and overgrown brown and yellow meadows. Winding path through groves of rolling terrain. Leave the path and climb through the brush and ledges to an overlook cutting across rolling seas of treetops to the purple haze of mountains sharply rising and falling across the horizon. No paths up here.
Tuesday the first day of the second week, with fourteen out of seventeen showing up for my evening Comp One. All of their papers have comments on how they can improve what they are doing, how they can think about their writing and make it better. After a short review session about some grammatical tips that apply to virtually anyone here, we head into three stories from youth. Each person has twelve minutes to write a story from their youth. Then a one to two minute break and another story, followed by another one or two minute break and another twelve minutes for the third and final story. About forty minutes altogether. After the break, they need to type those stories out. Oh, yeah; that original writedown was in longhand. After those three stories have been typed out and perhaps modified or embellished or edited from the longhand version, the author is to recognize a theme and write an introduction to those three stories as a single concept.
After the Introduction to the three stories is written, there needs to become a conclusion that wraps the whole thing up with a thread that returns to the beginning, the introduction. We’ve got a small classroom for the handwriting session. Barely enough chairs for how many we are and the walls are close. Three rows of six across, with a little pathway between four on the left and two on the right, as I see them, with the whiteboard to my back. Not much for me to do during that forty minute writing session except mark time between the three stories.
Twenty-one out of twenty-five are here for our second Comp Two class. Lots of new faces and attitudes for me to be getting used to here. I can think of eight that are familiar, and every one of them, all twenty-one, has to tell everyone else in the class in one minute a synopsis of the argument they have each written. I got to be hearing all their voices and they need to be speaking out loud. So it’s a nice introductory half-hour. Then we get into a discussion of the process of critical reading. Previewing, Skimming, Considering your own experience, Annotating, Summarizing, Analyzing and Evaluating. This is what they have to do when they are considering opposing arguments. We are surrounded by alternative positions, and each of us has to create and be aware of our own system of evaluation. We will be developing our systems of evaluation through logical processes, and your assumptions and premises are yours to keep forever although they may be open to challenge. We are going to do all this by talking to each other, reading alternative positions on selected topics, and writing essays that clearly explain the parameters of our position, each of us. Tonight’s subject is binge drinking on college campuses and whether or not school administrative officials can or should make what kinds of efforts or take what kings of actions to curtail that activity.
The question is what was today all about? Early on is Comp Two Lite. Only thirteen students registered and eleven are here. Susan and Corina are missing. Quite a mixed crew to have to put together, from the bright, interested, active participants, to the slow, and the dull and the inattentive. Some people you ask them a question and you can barely get a one-line answer out of them.
For tonight’s Comp One class, fifteen out of nineteen are here. Some people in here are great with their grammar and expressive capabilities, and I can help them refine what they are trying to do. This week, all the Comp ones are writing out three stories from their childhood, anytime from their birth to the age of fifteen, and they get twelve minutes to write the first story, then one minute to shake out their hand and change gears, and twelve minutes to write out a second story, followed by another minute to fish for another tale. After we have done all of this handwriting, and we’re using our pens and pencils for this exercise this evening, we’ll take a half hour break and go to the computer lab to type out and refine those three stories. Then we will each conceptualize a theme that these three stories illustrate, and write an introduction. Then we’ll write a conclusion, and then we will rearrange the pieces to make it look like and read like an essay. You don’t know what you’re going to write until you’ve written it.
Tonight, I sat and talked face-to-face with Alisa of the Navaho nation, mother of a six year old boy, telling her story in writing about how she makes decisions about what he can and cannot watch on television. She stays longer than anyone, thoughtfully considering tonight’s composition. I ripped her paper from last week up pretty good because she’s got a lot of Navaho structures and relationships in her English sentences. She is very concerned about raising her son so that he has a strong connection to Navaho traditional ways; nevertheless, she’s got a T.V. in her house, wherever that is, and she knows that he will learn the ways of the surrounding worlds one way or another sooner or later, but for now, she needs to concern herself with how programming is going to be monitored. Yolanda creates a lovely story in its narrative development of a six year old boy getting his first playstaton for Christmas and growing into a twelve year old boy with his playstations and numerous games that lead him down a path through which he becomes in adulthood the games he plays. Beautiful crafted and phrased in many places and riddled with grammatical and expressive anomalies that make it difficult to follow for a reader who likes traditional English structures and semantic relationships. Otherwise, it can sound like poetry in places from time to time.
More things go on in a week than I can actually put down. Little stories going on, all over the place. Friday morning and Saturday afternoon are Group Dynamics and what I call my Culture and Globalization course. How are the peoples of the third world countries impacted by International Banking Institutions and Corporations? I am by no means an expert in the intricacies of banking activities. This is an introductory course for people who have never heard of these things. Then again, they know it all already and I’m not making them aware of anything fundamentally new. Marlana hit the nail on the head for this course in one cut-to-the-chase sentence. We’re going to look at the evidence. Surely there is more than one point of truth and possible point of view for these matters.
Every single one of us has a cultural point of view. Some of us have some things in common, and all of us have some things in common. We are all citizens of the United States, and we are all members of global humanity. We all live in or near a big city in the valley for the river between a mesa and a mountain range. Different migrations have brought different peoples here, different languages, different feast days. Now here we are, we got a little rectangular table in this school room, so that we can understand each other’s culture a little better. Everyone here is going to school with the understanding that job opportunities are out there waiting to be filled. This course is something that needs to be learned along the way. This is a good group of fifteen; they all know this is important, they know it’s something they need to know about. For the most part, there’s just too much stuff going on in the rest of their lives. This course is on their back burner. What can I do or say to help them on the way to an understanding? I have to find a place to begin, a least common denominator for everybody. Here is a movie about what has been going on in Jamaica. Life and Debt. [link] Here is a reading about the IMF. ( _ _ _) You can also refer to the article from last week, and you can refer to any source you might wish to look up, and write a two page paper about what you think about all of this. We’ll talk about what you write next week.
The men of Jeremiah’s family have been in the military going all the way back to the Revolutionary War. One of his great grandfathers fought in the Civil War on the Confederate side from Alabama. From the heart. Karmella recognizes different linguistics variations of the Navaho on their large reservation in the northwestern part of New Mexico and northeastern Arizona. Patrick was born here to parents who came from Connecticut and Rhode Island. Marcos’ father is Puerto Rican and mother is Spanish. Madeline is half Spanish and half Italian, and she definitely has thought on both sides about that. All of us are in this together sitting around this rectangular table top to try to better understand all that stuff you’re reading about or hearing about on T.V. these days. How far deeply can we go to find out what all is behind all of that? Who are the players on the stage and what is the name of the play?
Then, of course, actually before of course, there was my Group Dynamics. Eshie and Yvette are not here. Participation is very important in this course, especially since there are only twelve altogether. It can be a great number to work with if everyone regularly shows up and participates. Had three small group exercises, shuffling members between teams for each exercise, so I can see how they all work together in different groupings, to see how they experience themselves when giving oral presentations. Charles and Andrew and Patrick, the three military veterans, Army, Air Force, and Marines are just as efficient as all get out when solving the problem of who to save and who to sacrifice in the Plane crash at Sea problem. Totally practical in their reasoning, they get it figured out in no time. Then there’s Valerie, Josh, and Bobby, whom I have had in other classes, and they are just right out plain good buddies who have been through a lot of classes before, so they’ve got a lot behind them as a team already. It’s Hajro and Ivonne and Ruben and Corry who are my four wild cards this morning. They are another group that looks very interesting. Four composition courses followed by a Group Dynamics and a Culture and Globalization in a five day set. It’s really a nice sequence for me. So now I’ve got some stories to read; actually quite a few. There’s more things go on in this building than I can ever say.
JA


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13 comments

15 Dec 2008 @ 04:46 by vaxen : Wow...
quite a group you have there koravya san. Thanks for letting us know a bit more about your methodology.  


22 Dec 2008 @ 06:38 by a-d : you really are....
GRILLING those Poor Kids, eh? hhahah... How wonderful, John! I love it!... We were grilled too!.... and I cannot tell what a strong impact it had on my --- no, not "ability" as a Writer nor Poet, but mostly in my capability of genuinely LOGIC thinking, seeing ALL possible solutions, evaluating each with the rest of them ,in order to see which one is the strongest "contender" as the real Truth Bearer etc etc.
One day these students of yours will understand what an invaluable gift you gave them!...  



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